Emile Hirsch’s newest movie, Lone Survivor, is filled with lots of long, ponderous voiceovers espousing platitudes about the triumph of the human spirit and the will to fight, and tons of aggro rhetoric that seems ripped right from gym class. There is also a gunfight that lasts for close to a half-hour and is choreographed like a video of someone playing Call of Duty. But talking to Hirsch, who’s starred in thoughtful movies like Into the Wild and engaging movies like Speed Racer, gives the impression that Lone Survivor wasn’t made out of aesthetic advancement. It was made because it needed to be told on the behalf of those who lost their lives during a failed SEAL mission to capture terrorists in Afghanistan.
When I talk to Hirsch in a hotel room at the Mandarin Oriental, his conviction is almost palpable. It’s surely convenient to have a star who can speak so earnestly about the movie’s intentions, but listening to his story, it’s impossible to not feel a little swayed by his righteousness. Hirsch is a new father, which I thought might’ve accounted for some new perspectives about life; surprisingly, he was most reticent to talk about that. Instead, we talked about the movie, the chances of a Speed Racer sequel, his life as a former teen idol, and more.
The first thing I was wondering is that this seems like kind of a departure compared with some of the movies you’ve been in, like Into the Wild and Speed Racer. How did you get involved with this?
Pete [Berg, the director] told me “no,” to my face originally when we talked about it. He flat out told me, “No. Listen man, you aren’t the guy. You’re not right for it physically,” and I felt that he was wrong. I wanted to portray Danny Dietz so much, and so I started calling him and emailing him, and I started eating more and gaining weight and working out. Eventually he put me in a pro-camp that he selected to test me with T.R. Goodman at Gold’s Gym. He still didn’t give me the role, and he still said it probably wasn’t gonna happen, but I started going. I basically had to do whatever he said to even be in contention. He was still meeting other actors. So I went six days a week at 6AM for three and a half months for training, and it wasn’t about the second or third month that—of everyday, six days a week—finally even him giving me the offer on the movie. My agent was like, “This is crazy. This is a bad move. You’re not safe in this move.” I said, “I don’t care. I gotta see what’s gonna happen. I can’t quit this.”
You talked about wanting to play Danny so much. What was it that made you so insistent?
I had read the book Lone Survivor and Danny was so unique. He was an artist and he wasn’t your traditional G.I. Joe guy. This was a guy who drew anime. He originally wanted to be a ninja. He was an atypical guy, and I guess I identified with him. He wasn’t a loud guy. He was kind of a quiet guy, an intense guy, but he had a lot of soul and he had a lot of love. I admired the courage that he had, and I mourned the loss that his death brought.
Since you trained with real SEALS, what was the environment on set like? The movie is very emphatic about all these dudes and all their beards.
We were all dipping, like chewing tobacco and stuff, hanging out, just joking around. And then those switches would just get flipped, and it was like, “Alright. It’s all business. Where’s your gun? Where’s your weapon system? Let’s get into position. Let’s fucking do this.” It was an exhilarating environment to be a part of. But it was also really sad because a lot of these tragic scenes in the battle, these guys had been through all that. So I’d see the toughest, most badass guys tearing up at times, walking off, and having cries by themselves. It brings it back home that this isn’t just a movie.
How many of your own stunts did you do in the movie?
Some of the stuff I did, but I have to give a lot of credit to Kevin Scott, the stunt coordinator and his team of guys. These guys are some of the most incredible stunt guys I have ever seen, and the stunts that they did are—for an actor to try to take credit away from these guys would be a fucking crime. These guys are geniuses and not only are they incredibly physically coordinated and talented, but they sacrifice their bodies a lot for what they did. One guy shattered his ribs and punctured his lung. It’s not CGI, these guys just threw themselves down these cliffs. When you see it, you can tell that it’s not a special effect. I think one of the reasons why Lone Survivor is so powerful is because when those cliff falls happen, we can tell that’s real. You can tell that they are really falling down those cliffs and that those are human beings.
Switching gears for a second, you are a new father now. Congrats.
Have you found yourself lapsing into any sort of dad behaviors—telling bad jokes or falling asleep at inopportune times?
Well I always tell bad jokes anyways, so now I just have an excuse for it. I think it affects everybody differently. Maybe some guys start telling better jokes. It’s not very likely though.
As a former teen heartthrob, did you ever have a crush on another teen heartthrob?
A crush on another teen heartthrob? [long pause] Strangely enough, I think I liked a lot of girls that were doing it, but I don’t know if… I’ve always thought Kristin Stewart was just adorable. I felt that she was really sweet in Into the Wild, and she was really great. Seeing her in all those Twilight movies, she’s just so stunning. I think that’s the closest to a crush on a teen heartthrob that I’ve had. Or did you mean dudes?
What are the odds of a Speed Racer sequel happening?
Zero. That movie lost 200 million dollars.
Damn. That sucks. I really liked that movie.
Thank you. I loved the movie, too. I think it’s fucking hilarious and fun. It’s one of those movies that had visionary filmmakers behind it, but for whatever reason, it lost 200 million dollars. So, we probably won’t make a sequel. I love the Wachowskis though.I’m really looking forward to Jupiter Ascending, their next movie.
I heard that you’re playing John Belushi.
Yeah, I am.
Are you playing fat John Belushi?
It’s gonna be early John Belushi but, you know, yeah.
So what’s your method for gaining weight?
I haven’t really started it yet. So I’ll probably explore a lot of different options.
It’s a different type of gaining weight than getting in shape for Lone Survivor.
Yeah, it’s a whole different ball game.
How did you get involved with that?
They just called me, and I met with the director. I thought it was a great script and we’ll see what happens. It’s sort of one of those things where I realized everyone’s got a fascination with it. But I try to dodge every question when people ask me about Belushi because I don’t wanna say anything before I make it. It’s almost like a magician talking about a magic act before he does it. I wanna wait and then make it. You understand, probably? I understand why people are so interested. It’s John Belushi. The guy is incredible.
Outside of a filming environment, could you beat your Lone Survivor costar Taylor Kitsch in a foot race?
No, well, me and him actually raced. The last part of the race, that last final shot of the two of us running, all the crew was putting money down. It was like a full-blown sprint race. It was probably 100 yards. Pete put a lot of money down on me. Pete lost some money on me. I have never ran faster in my entire life than in that shot in the movie. Never. I was in the best shape of my life, and I was fucking running as hard as I could. Taylor, I gotta give it to him, he’s an incredible fucking athlete. The guy is a physical fucking specimen.
Is there an old haircut you’ve had that you wish could be banished from the Internet’s memory?
Let me think here. Yeah, just the cheesy 80’s hair. Which now I love, like ironically. I had really cheesy 80’s hair in Prince Avalanche, which is just awesome. It’s like Kurt Russell feathered. But there’s a couple of pictures where I’m like, “Man, that’s corny!” But at the same time, if you sit around looking at pictures of your old hairstyles from years ago, you probably need to get your head examined versus your hair.
Iggy Azalea isn’t quite yet a star, but she looks like one. I’m waiting to interview the Australian-born rapper during what I assume is a loaded press day, which means I have the chance to watch from afar as she navigates through the several journalists and video crews waiting in the Mondrian Soho for a few minutes of her time. She’s immaculately composed in a striking black dress too complicated for my boyish brain to describe, and effortlessly jocular both on and off camera. When we finally start talking, she’s affable and lucid despite conditions that would normally prevent affability and lucidity—we only have fifteen minutes together, but she has a perfect feel for how to make the most of them.
Understand this is no small thing: plenty of musicians, regardless of their training, will clam up in such situations, but it’s part of her single-minded focus to become The Next Big Thing. Her hype’s been building for a few years up to the release of what will be her first album, The New Classic, even as she’s had to go through the typical label bureaucracy involving delays and more delays while finding a few moments to inject herself into the zeitgeist—an appearance at the VMAs here, a video with T.I. there. The waiting is new for her, but she’s a quick learner.
The Change Your Life EP is out in a few days. How are you feeling about it?
I’m perfectly fine.
I know The New Classic has been in development for a while. Were you approaching your EP any differently?
No, my EP is really just something the label wanted to do to sell my single 500 million times. I don’t even consider it an EP to be honest with you, although I’m sure they’ll kill me for telling you that. But I’m always honest. Yeah, it’s just my singles together so it’s hard to consider it an EP. To me, if I were going to do an EP, it would be a proper body of work that was, you know, thought out and each song had meaning. I don’t really think putting three singles and two remixes really suffices as what an EP is intended to be so I guess it’s one of those weird label things.
Are you disappointed in them for deciding to do that instead of releasing The New Classic proper?
Yeah, it’s annoying because it just feels like there’s always something else that they have to do before it comes out and as far as the music, they love the music, and it’s done and it’s finished, and I am like, can you fucking get it together, because what the fuck? It’s fine, they seem to have some kind of grand master scheme planned that is going well. They seem to be happy with it, so being that I’ve never worked in a record label before, I guess I’m at their mercy to hope that they do know what they’re doing.
You Instagrammed photos from multiple fashion weeks. What shows did you go to?
I went to Milan Fashion Week and I also went to New York, so I did three weeks of shows, but specifically in Paris I went to the Margiela show, I went to the Chloé show, I went to the, uh, Vivienne Westwood show, which was good. I went to the, uh, Yohji Yamamoto show, which was great too. Who else did I see? Acne, I went to the Acne show. I went to the Kenzo show. I went to the Viktor and Rolf show. I think that’s it. Yeah, those were about all the shows I went to off the top of my head in Paris. It was fun. It was a good week.
There’s a line on the song “Work” about “No money, no family, 16 in the middle of Miami.” That could be your introduction, basically. Why did you relocate to Miami from Australia?
Why Miami, specifically? Because I thought that I would be able to go to an audio engineering school there called SAE and the headquarters to that school are in a neighboring town of where I’m from in Australia. My mother and I used to clean the man’s home who owned that school, and so I thought if I had an opportunity to go to school in America, which is what I had hoped, that would be a way I could get into America to be a student. That was the school I thought I would have a shot at being accepted into eventually and learn audio engineering and learn to record music and be a female engineer, something you don’t see a lot as well as female artists, rappers, and um…so that was something that I had sort of, I guess, played with in my mind as a plan B and that’s what sparked my interest in Miami. I never made it to audio engineering school.
I read in an interview where you described your new album as a “sonic and visual experience.” Who are some of your favorite directors or films?
Favorite directors or films…I don’t know, I like all different kinds of things. I like things that are brilliant and things that are awful.
I saw you talking about, like Showgirls, which is like an American classic of sorts
Yeah! I can’t tell you who directed it, but I can tell you it’s fucking horrible, which makes it absolutely brilliant, so, yeah I don’t know, I like Showgirls, I like Tarantino films a lot because I like that he always has the females be kind of he heroines or tough chicks. I like that. I like all the classics like The Birds, that’s a good one, or any kind of, Kubrick is good, and yeah, a good Hitchcock film is always good in terms of anticipation, figuring out, not necessarily visual, but just how to do nothing but do something. You know what I mean?
Guys like that I think are great, and then there are films like Blade Runner that I love. I don’t necessarily care so much for the storyline, but I just like visually the way it looks. I liked, um, recently a film that came out that I liked the way it looked, was that…uh…what’s that movie? With Mark Wahlberg in it, where it’s got the body builders and The Rock is in it?
Pain and Gain, yeah.
Pain and Gain! That was kind of an awful movie, I just watched it on the plane, but I was like, “I like the way this is shot.” It’s very ’90s. Things like that I really like, like I like a high-pigmented film. I’m into colors a lot, like a good color palette in a movie will make me want to watch it, even if it’s awful. Now, I like Disney films because I like the musical scores in it, even though it’s for kids, like those, I don’t know. I’m not picky.
I noticed you have tattoos on the insides of your fingers… what are they?
Uh, this says The New Classic, which is the name of my album.
Was that a spur of the moment thing, or do you plan out your tattoos?
I’m definitely more impulsive. The only tattoo I have ever planned out is this one, which took me about a year to decide that’s definitely what I wanted to do with it all. But I’m a fairly impulsive person with most things in life, I think. I’m working on thinking things through a bit more now a days, but it’s tough.
I don’t know. I just kind of think, life—you just got to kind of roll with it. That’s the way it’s always been for me. For me, I like to do impulsive things. I guess I think it’s like the spice of life, but I know other people I do business with that would beg to differ.
Would you consider yourself more or less sensitive than Drake?
Yeah. I’m definitely worlds away. I’m practically heartless compared to Drake.
Do you ever use Snapchat?
No, I don’t have Snapchat.
Because I’ve heard it’s where you get random penises sent to you, so I’ve avoided that app.
In the “Change Your Life” video, you got to play with a white tiger.
How much time did you get with that tiger?
Ugh! It’s such a disappointing story with that tiger! It was there all day, it was there for about 12 hours. When I got there, um, a woman tried to, asked if she could pet it, and the handler said, “ No, you can’t touch it.” So, I assumed, overhearing that, that it meant I couldn’t play with it either, and so I avoided really like wrestling and playing with it like a puppy, and the next day I said “I wish I could have played with the tiger more,” and they said, “You could you fucking idiot, you’re the only one that was insured, that’s why no one else could touch it!” So I was like, ahh fuck! I didn’t know! I only got to be with it and really touch it when I was on the bed with it, but that, I didn’t realize I was allowed. I just thought, because I had seen everyone else be told no, then that meant me too, and I didn’t try to ask.
Maybe it will be a recurring motif in your videos with you and baby animals?
Yeah, maybe. Definitely. I liked those guys. They don’t do movie animals and that wasn’t a trained tiger where it knows tricks and it will never know tricks, so it was kind of doing its own thing. They actually own a tiger rescue sanctuary that’s outside of Vegas, and I happened to have a friend that knows them, and they happened to have a baby tiger and sometimes they will do it for videos and stuff if they think it’s the right thing, because they use the money to help fund and save other tigers. So, I thought it was a good thing. I’m funny about, I am wary about using exotic animals in videos and their living environment, and if it’s the right thing for them, but I thought in that case, I felt like it was a good thing. But the tiger was called Donna, and I said “how did you get the name Donna” and they said “oh, it was one of our zookeeper’s names but she got eaten by another tiger last year, so we named this tiger after her,” and I was like “uh fucking hell!”
You presented an award at the VMAs with Lil’ Kim. Did you guys get a chance to talk before?
Yeah, we did. Before we were in a moon man together for all of Miley Cyrus’s performance, so we had a few minutes to talk. I love Kim, I think she gets a bad rap and it’s unfortunate, but she’s still a legend of rap music and a great influencer. She’s definitely been an influence of mine. Being a fan of rap music, you can’t ignore Lil’ Kim, so it was probably one of the more surreal moments, getting to meet her.
I read in an interview the other day in which you said that you thought Miley Cyrus got the idea for twerking from one of your videos?
Yeah, no, I think that was misconstrued a little bit. I was asked about my old twerking videos, and I was like “yeah, I can’t believe that it’s already been like two and a half years that I’ve been performing and doing this twerk competition of shows I still do now,” and the interviewer said, “Do you think Miley Cyrus saw your ‘Work’ video?” and I was like, “I don’t know, maybe she fucking watched one of my videos and decided, like, I want to try twerking too!” I don’t think Miley Cyrus saw my videos and was like, “TWERKS FOR ME!”
It’s been a bit misconstrued about the whole thing.
I will make sure that’s included to amend the record.
For the record, I don’t think I invented twerking!
I am supposed to tell you that J. Cole’s “Miss America” is used in the trailer for Splinter Cell: Blacklist, a well-made videogame in which you play a spy whose mission is to alternately sneak around and stab people in the face as is necessary. It seems fun enough, though as Cole and I are sitting in some Midtown office trying to go through the motions of a 2-player mission, we’re failing pretty miserably at any of the intended objectives and probably sending an unconscious aneurysm to the dozens of developers who labored for months only to see their finely-tuned mechanics reduced to button-mashing confusion. Cole is a platinum-selling artist who went head-to-head with Yeezus and was the first artist called out on Kendrick Lamar’s “Control,” but we’re able to effortlessly communicate through the shared experience of not knowing what we’re doing; he’s a comfortable conversationist despite the not entirely natural premise for this interview, and doesn’t appear to mind when I go off-topic from discussing the videogame to why the government’s out to get all of us.
Were you a gamer growing up?
Yes. In the sense of like just a little kid who loved video games, but like not – I don’t know if I was as extreme as some of the other kids or some of the most intense gamers. I love video games of course, but I feel like I loved it like other kids loved it – Mortal Kombat, Streetfighter, Madden. I love video games, but I can’t claim the gamer—
You can’t mark yourself.
Right. But there were moments. I had flirts. I guess I flirted with the gaming world. There were certain games like Metal Gear Solid that really had me running home from school to play. But it was once in the blue that a game did that.
With a game like this, you’re supposed to be stealthy, but then obviously screwed that up. Did you prefer to go in guns blazing or try to be sneaky?
I didn’t play the mission mode like that. It was always online versus. I can’t play games like Call of Duty or Halo, like first person shooters, I’m not into them. But this the online play seemed smarter, like if you were a spy, you had to be smart about your location and drop down from the sky, so that’s how I got into this.
Can you think of the rudest way you took someone out in a game? Like I knocked someone out and threw him off a building and the guy I was with just stared at me like, You’re a monster.
I’m sure I did something like that, but the best was when you grab somebody in versus mode, when you grab them you can talk to them. You just let them know like, Yo, I’m about to snap your neck. [Laughs] You just talk mad shit through the Xbox Live. So that’s as rude as it got—just talking mad shit before you snap off somebody’s neck.
With a game like this it’s all about spying. Do you think you would have made a good spy in another life?
Yeah. For sure.
Are you good at keeping things really under the radar?
Yeah, I am. I’m not sneaky, but I can keep things low and I got a good poker face. I think I would be an ill spy, and I’m just nosy. I wanna know what the fuck is going on.
What’s the biggest secret you’ve kept for someone that’s been declassified years later? One that you can share.
That’s a great question. All my secrets are still classified. I got great secrets but I guess they’re secrets for a reason.
For all this spying stuff that’s been in the news recently—the NSA is spying on us all the time – are you even more secretive about your communication?
No. I’m paranoid. I’ve always been paranoid, so my level of paranoia hasn’t changed, but it just confirms what I already knew. I just didn’t know it would be so blatantly on paper. You know what I mean? I thought there would be more outrage if people got evidence that anybody could be listening to your calls. And I think it’s way worse than we actually have heard. I think the actual level of tapping of phones is way more.
Yeah. I assumed there would be a blowback, but I feel like people have just been cynical about it, like they just accept that it’s the cost of living in the modern world.
Right, it shouldn’t be like that. I think people are just so comfortable in their lives and they feel like, Hey, man I ain’t got nothing to hide. But it’s not about something to hide. Privacy just feels like a right. I know it’s not in the Constitution, but it just feels like it should be.
The craziest thing I saw, is that legally they can bug your phone and the phones of people they get in touch with and the phones that the people you’re in touch with are in touch with, so it’s three degrees of separation. But what’s crazier than that is everyone in America is essentially connected—like the average number of connections to someone is like 5 people.
I’m aware just because I know people whose phones have been tapped because of drug dealing or association with drug dealers. I’m aware of that. But the common person, but the person whose just a rapper who went to college, like why are you tapping my phones or why are you reading my emails. I’m not saying I know they are, but I’ve always had a strange feeling like someone’s always listening on my calls or whatever the case is. It’s not farfetched. It’s very likely.
When you talk about being paranoid, where did that come from?
I think I started to have a lack of faith in the system in college. I think I just started to think more. When I was in high school, I didn’t care. I was just living life, playing basketball, chasing girls. When I got in school, I had more time to just think. I just started realizing, these people who are in control are just human beings. The people who run the world are humans, and they’re fucked up just like the rest of us. You know what I mean? These guys aren’t perfect. People who are in power situations, they have real human flaws. They want to maintain power. When I realized that that was the case, I just thought that the likelihood of spying or the likelihood of corruption was high. People that work at McDonalds—there’s someone pulling from the register. There’s someone stealing a burger, so what makes you think the head of the FBI, or the CIA, or the NSA won’t tap a phone? There’s corruption at every level of life. So I realized, what makes the government any different?
It’s just funny because they’ve been making movies about this stuff for years. Like Enemy of the State, that was the joke.
Oh my god. And it’s so real. And it bugs me out that whatever technology comes out, that the government or the army is 20 years advanced or some crazy number of years ahead of us. So it’s like imagine what they have right now.
Those are always the stories I love, when some guy is like, I can’t tell you how crazy the technology is, but trust us it’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen.
[Laughs] I got friends who I went to school with that work for the government. They’ve got the kinds of jobs where they can’t tell me what they do, and I just assume they’re in my Gmail account, or waterboarding a terrorist. But nah, not that extreme, but I just think the worst, things that would freak me out.
Switching gears, Born Sinner has been out for a while. In the aftermath, how did you feel about the reception and how things rolled out for you?
I felt amazing. I still feel amazing. The initial feeling was great. It was relief and appreciation. I was thrilled with the response to the album and the numbers—everything. And it lasted longer. I made sure I appreciated this time and really soaked it in. But it only lasted like a few weeks and then I’m already back to like, OK, what’s next. I’ve noticed I don’t get comfortable or satisfied easily. I’m already back to plotting and planning what’s next.
Is it easy to forget to enjoy the moment?
For sure. Definitely. I’m getting better. Each hour I get better and better at taking it in. This was my best project so far in terms of enjoying the moment and really appreciating it, because there’s no guarantee that it’ll ever happen again. I plan to do this for years and years, but anything can happen, so I made sure I appreciated it when it happened.
I definitely got that sense that this was a big step forward in terms of ambition and scope. When you talk about getting this all out and doing this while you can and trying to do it forever, where do you go from here?
Where do I go from here? Just more albums, more music. I still feel like my best songs are ahead of me. Bigger tour, better shows, better music. But then other than that, acting if I’m any good.
Have you been on any auditions?
None. I haven’t taken a class. I haven’t done anything. I just keep talking about it like one day, hopefully it happens.
I saw a video in which you bought a bunch of copies of the album at Best Buy with Drake. What happened all those copies?
Technically he bought them because the way my bank account is set up—[Laughs]. No, he bought those, but that was fun. What happened to them? I’m not sure. Hopefully, they gave them away. I didn’t walk out of there with the CDs, or maybe I did. Maybe we have some. Usually those end up going to family or friends or if I just see people around, or if somebody’s in my building and they need a CD, I just grab it from the stash of CDs I’ve got. We just tried to pad the stats a bit.
That was my first thought—what happens when people show up and they want to buy it and it’s empty?
And it’s sold out? I did feel bad. There were a couple stores I went to that if I was buying albums, and they only had a few left, I wouldn’t buy. I didn’t want anybody to go to two stores.
I’ve accepted that I’m one of those people who genuinely enjoys The Newsroom, despite the liberal moralizing, flimsy subplots, recycled dialogue. But even if you’ve got nothing but palpable loathing for Sorkin’s creation, you’ve got to admire what he’s been able to do with the newest season: piss off former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign months after it went down.
You remember Mitt Romney, right? Old white guy with nice hair who hated the 47% and wanted to repeal universal health care? It’s been months since you thought about him, but since The Newsroom‘s central conceit involves analyzing real-life news months after the fact, one of this season’s subplots revolves around a producer who’s traveling with the Romney media bus. In the show, the producer is portrayed as a do-gooder just trying to get a straight answer regarding any of Mitt’s hypocritical statements as he’s constantly rebuffed by a stream of PR flacks content to recycle the same vague platitudes about why Obama is the worst. It’s not really an even-keeled dynamic, but this is Aaron Sorkin’s liberal wet dream, and fuck it if he’s going to waste space making Romney look good. But since this is an uncharitably fictional depiction of non-fictional people, some of the real Romney staffers have complained about the portrayal, claiming that they’d never go as far as to throw a dissenting reporter off the media bus. (They did not, however, dispute that they’re a bunch of flim-flammers.)
That’s great, right? The Newsroom may be a third-tier show with plenty of flaws and no discernible point other than generally trying to make us feel bad for how we don’t respect the news, but it did manage to cheese off a bunch of losers (literally, because they lost) who should probably be reminded everyday about the wrong horse they backed. Sorkin might not be able to write a plausible romance, but he’s able to troll like the finest.
More than 100,000 Syrian citizens have been killed in the internecine civil war that’s engulfed the country over the last few years, a conflict the United States has been reluctant to mediate because, ironically, of our terrible track record with intervention in Middle East countries where we’ve had no real reason to enter. President Obama is finally committing military help to the Syrian rebels, even with the looming memory of what happens when we give the wrong insurgent a bunch of anti-aircraft missiles, which means the room for chilling parody may soon come to an end. Perhaps aware of the ensuing public relations crisis as the Good Guys get involved, Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad has opened up an official Instagram account chronicling some of the lighter moments of his administration. Diplomacy at its finest! It’s not as selfie-filled as you might expect from a regular IG account, but Assad’s team has done just a fine job showing the human side of their emotionless, immoral leader. (Not pictured: war-torn cities, chemical burns, dead children.) The commenters are giving him hell, at least.
Perhaps you’re still acquainted with people who think that global warming is a liberal myth, invented by President Obama, the media, and the Illuminati, to force us out of our station wagons into electric cars, to deprive of us red meat in favor of tasteless vegan burritos, to make us listen to Tegan and Sara when we’d rather be blasting Ted Nugent. Presumably you went to high school with these people and have to witness their spastic jeremiads posted to Facebook every so often, talking about how science is gay. And presumably you wished you had a definitive way to shoot them down without getting sucked into a stupid, shitty argument with someone you went to high school with because that would seriously be the worst. In that case, here’s a 13-second video that shows, by way of 62 years of data provided by NASA, that global warming is real and not something conceived by the president’s reptilian overlords. Watch, in fretful horror, as the planet warms up at the speed and color of a bad sunburn; think, in fretful horror, of all you aren’t doing to make sure our kids don’t wake up everyday in a soupy, sweaty overheated mess, cursing us for the shitty planet we bequeathed to them. “At least our parents properly debated whether or not Lana Del Rey was feminist!” they will fake rationalize, before bursting into laughter that quickly turns to sobbing. Welcome to hell.
American authorities found small amounts of marijuana in Justin Bieber’s tour bus before he was slated to play a concert on Sunday night, though fortunately the hairless Furby wasn’t there to receive the full wrath of the law (maybe we would’ve gotten a really great video of him crying courtesy of the inevitable paparazzi storm). Come on, though. That marijuana was there for Bieber’s smoking. There is literally no doubt in my mind that in lieu of a real collegiate experience, he’s catching up on the basics. Not to slag on the Biebs, but can you honestly imagine anyone who might be worse at pot? The two worst types of dope smokers are smart people who turn dumb, and dumb people who turn smart. Amazingly, Bieber might fit both personality types to a tee. He’s clearly some kind of smart, having gotten this far in the music game on what I imagine is a terrifyingly instinctual intelligence, capable of informing him exactly how many wan looks it takes to disintegrate a teenage girl’s self-esteem. But he’s also a true bro with all the subtlety of a novelty tourist shirt. One hit, and he’s ready to put on The Boondock Saints while talking to you about how the trappings of celebrity are, like, sooOoOOoOoo fake, man. Below, remember the better times when none of this was a problem.
For those who went to college, there’s the unlucky phenomena of dinner time rolling around with no one to dine with—no friends in their rooms, no strangers to be chatted up, nothing but a big room of chattering conversation between loved ones with nothing for you. I got around this in college by bringing a magazine to dinner whenever I needed to—not that I ever did, because I was the 100% coolest guy on campus—but the Japanese have invented a tool that’ll allow you to ignore the public shaming that’s surely being done when other people see you dining alone like some friendless ogre.
It’s called “bocchi,” which means “alone” in Japanese, and it’s essentially a divider that’s installed in the middle of a dining hall table so that solo eaters can look at emotionless plastic rather than other people as they fill their nutritional needs. No empty seat across from them to announce the loneliness in our diner’s heart—just a functional, form-fitting tool that clearly states the eater is comfortable being by themselves, and certainly doesn’t need your pitied looks. According to this Kotaku article, the invention is very popular at Kyoto University, where they’ve been installed. Good, because being alone is the best—ever gone to a movie by yourself?—and no one should’ve ever feel bad for shirking the attention of other people. Eat well and alone and be happy, by yourself, forever.
There is nothing good about the resurgence of the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal, except for the part where it might force an already questionable mayoral candidate out of the race. But the most loathsome part is how it’s enabled every commentator to offer his or her own explanation for the seemingly evident troubles between Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, the former Hilary acolyte who’s been held up as a model of loveless post-Lewinsky restraint as she’s somehow stayed by her man despite all the evidence that he’s a truly clueless boner-jammed dumbo.
Boner jams are no laughing matter, but we’ve really got no reason to explain from afar why and how two miserable people are miserable. That much should be obvious to anyone rational, but New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s launched herself from the periphery with an explanation of Abedin’s deference that’s astonishingly jaw-dropping in its dumbness. Her doozy of a lede, from a column titled “Time to Hard-Delete Carlos Danger” (that’s clever, at least):
WHEN you puzzle over why the elegant Huma Abedin is propping up the eel-like Anthony Weiner, you must remember one thing: Huma was raised in Saudi Arabia, where women are treated worse by men than anywhere else on the planet. Comparatively speaking, the pol from Queens probably seems like a prince.
Which earns points not just for being as earnestly clueless as any other explanation, but also sort of racist. No, it’s not enough to accept the peculiarly human tendency of acting at odds against your better judgment, how Abedin could look at this manipulative human priapism and decide, “Yeah, that’s still my husband” despite everyone telling her otherwise. Instead, her loyalty must be ascribed to the timid nature of all Saudi Arabians, raised in the merciless Middle East with no egalitarian agency of their own; this, to an accomplished and worldly woman who’s spent years in the United States, far away from the clutches of her Arabic male dominators.
But it’s more aggravating to consider the broader picture, which is an American-born white woman generalizing a culture that’s a hemisphere away in order to neatly fit her lazy guesswork. Whatever the reason for Abedin’s poker face, it certainly isn’t because she was raised in Saudi Arabia, just as Weiner’s dick woes aren’t attributable to the fact that he grew up in New York City. The rest of Dowd’s column is a decent look at the parallels between Abedin and her mentor, Hilary—rather, how the Clintons have been strong to disavow the parallels that Weiner would surely like to draw. But it’s soured by that woeful lede, the nadir of a punditry in ceaseless search of a justification. Maybe her editor should’ve hard-deleted it, huh? And maybe everyone should stop attempting to grasp the ungraspable.
Evian Christ, like myself, has been cursed with a baby face that makes him look younger than he really is. But there’s worse fates than being thought of as the obscenely young British producer who hopped aboard Kanye West’s Yeezus to contribute music, and he’s parlayed the attention from both that and his own music into a pretty choice evening slot at Pitchfork Festival. (Though I’m told his crowd is somewhat depleted, with most of the tweens split between Toro Y Moi and M.I.A. at the same time.) Still, it only goes up from here.
I should preface this by saying that I went pretty deep on your Twitter account to find everything you’ve said over the last twelve months.
Wow, okay, it hasn’t been that much, right?
Not a ton, but enough to get anything, something. And the first thing I’d ask is did you really play Gucci Mane remixes in a church?
Yeah. I mean, that was the most blasphemous experience of my life for sure. That was when Purity Ring came to the UK and they did one show in Saint John’s church in London. I mean, I guess the blasphemy is even more kind of visceral when you’re with Purity Ring and Evian Christ is your name, but yeah. It was kind of wild playing in a church. I wasn’t entirely comfortable about it.
Were you raised religiously?
Kind of semi-religiously, like my parents’ generation family-wise are not like super religious but kind of above that, yeah.
When you were working on Kanye’s album, were you here in France?
Yeah, I flew out to Paris for a bit.
Were you hanging out with like Bon Iver in the studio and all that?
No, he wasn’t there at the time, when I was there. I think he spent a lot of time in Paris a couple of months afterwards, when a lot of the tracks were more formed and I guess Kanye had a better idea of what he wanted from Justin at that point.
Damn, I was really looking to confirm some stories that I’ve heard about his ability to rage.
No, me too. I’d love to meet that dude, but yeah, I don’t know.
There are a couple of really bold sonic parts in “I’m In It,” and I was wondering how it all comes together when you’re producing but Kanye is also there overseeing everything.
I mean, Kanye is very hands on with everything. Possibly more so than people would realize. I guess there’s a lot of people on that level; I think a lot of people like to pretend they’re more involved than they are, but because of Kanye’s background as a producer, he’s very hands-on in the studio, and very clear direction-wise of where he wants tracks to go. That track that I sent to them, it went through a lot of different stages. And it’s just Kanye like vibing on different ideas and trying to fit it into an album as a whole. It might be like this originally, but it’s definitely his vision of how it ends.
You tweeted something about hip-hop collaborations, like imagine Trent Reznor with Gucci Mane. In your mind, do you have any dream collaborations that you would want to do, something that would be way out of left field?
For me, Kanye would be all out left field, so I’ve already done one. Do you know what would be cool? I’ve said this before but no one picked up on it. There’s this dude called Stuart Argabright and he’s New York-based, did a lot of like post-industrial stuff. Yeah, he’d be someone that would be awesome to work with I think. Along similar lines, more post-industrial stuff like Zoviet France, who were a band based in the Northeast of England who made super industrial music. With something like Yeezus, there’s a lot of contemporary industrial influences, like super distorted kicks and Nine Inch Nails style mixed-in production. I’m interested in older, more classic industrial stuff. Working with guys like that would be super interesting.
You also said something about Paul McCartney, how he should put down his ukulele. What was that?
That was a line. You know, “On Sight,” off the Kanye record? That was originally a line off that. When I flew out to Paris, that song was long as fuck. It was just like Kanye vibing on the beat, almost freestyling it, and that was one of the lines in it. And I remember when I heard that, I was like, man, I really hope this makes the cut for the album. I was so disappointed when I heard that line didn’t make it on the song. I just wanted to leave that on there as a reminder, so I never forget that I heard Kanye talking about Paul McCartney putting down the ukulele.
I noticed a lot of girls on Twitter seem to ask you to be their boyfriend. You retweet some of them but is it a fraction of the attention, or is it so much larger beyond?
It depends, if it’s a particularly funny thing I’ll normally retweet it. The best one was when I was touring the stage with Purity Ring. I had this thing when I was on tour with them where I was on this American food tourism mission and I stopping off at gas stations, eating different ice cream everyday. And they said something on Facebook like, “bring Evian Christ ice cream to his shows.” And there was this girl who was like, “Oh, you like chocolate ice cream?” And she brought all this chocolate ice cream to the show, and I was like, that’s funny as fuck. I appreciated that. She actually brought it and security wouldn’t let her bring it in, so that was devastating.
This morning Kanye tweeted that his second verse on the song “New Slaves” is the best verse of all time.
I saw that.
Confirm or deny?
It wouldn’t be my favorite verse on the album.
What would be your favorite verse on the album?
See, I think he goes in harder on “Black Skinhead.” Like it’s up to him, he knows better than me. It’s a sick verse, but I wouldn’t say that it’s his best verse of all time. I think just as a talking point, it’s interesting anyway, to talk about things like that. I’m sure that Kanye is well aware that there’s going to be a backlash to that comment, but I’m sure that’s why he makes it, it sort of spurs discussion. Not enough people are willing to put themselves out there and make statements like that.
Photo by Laura Bates